Greg Oden's Wildcats To Meet Flashes

Greg Oden leaned against a wall in the Lawrence North locker room, munching on an apple, an ice bag under each knee. And a look of disgust on his face.

Wildcats point guard Mike Conley was a few feet away, an ice bag on a sore ankle, looking equally displeased.

Was this the losers' locker room? Had the two-time defending state champs been bounced out of the Marion County Tournament in the quarterfinals in front of a near-capacity crowd in their own gym?

No, Lawrence North staved off a late rally for a 73-60 victory over Pike, one of only a few teams seen as a legitimate threat to the Wildcats' pursuit of a third consecutive state title. But the way Lawrence North saw it, even a double-digit victory over the third-ranked team in Class 4A wasn't a cause for celebration when they didn't feel they played to their potential.

"It was kind of like when things weren't going our way, we gave up," Greg Oden said after scoring 23 points to go with 17 rebounds and five blocked shots as the top-ranked team in Class 4A improved to 11-0. "We've got some things to work out. We have to realize you've got to keep going after it every play, no matter what's going on."

The Wildcats, who have won 27 in a row, play Franklin Central (7-4) at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the semifinals at Southport High School .

The Flashes, who handled Southport 80-62 in Wednesday's other quarterfinal at Lawrence North, lost to the Wildcats 57-38 at home Jan. 3.

Against Pike (8-2), the Wildcats led 40-24 at halftime and were up 56-34 late in the third before Pike coach Larry Bullington's press began taking effect and the Red Devils began gnawing away. Pike forced three consecutive turnovers at one point and twice got to within 13.

"We're not there yet, a state-championship type of team," said Conley, who had 17 points, six rebounds and five assists. "We feel we should be able to put away teams in the second half and keep momentum from the first half.

"We didn't do that. We're real upset with ourselves. Even though we won, the win doesn't matter much to us. We want to get better."

Pike, which won state titles in 2001 and '03 and was runner-up in '02, forced 16 turnovers, 12 in the second half. Lawrence North survived, in part, because of a 40-22 rebounding edge.

Greg Oden shot an uncharacteristic 10-for-19 from the field, missing several short shots. For the season, he's shooting 71 percent. Conley was 3-for-6 from 3-point range to improve his season percentage to 42.

Reece Cheatham led Pike with 15 points.

After the game, Lawrence North coach Jack Keefer kept his team in the locker room for an extended tongue-lashing.

"I thought we were sloppy," Keefer said.

"We got up and let up. A good team would have put them away in the fourth, and we let them fight back in the fourth. I was a little disappointed."